The University of Iowa unveiled its new $17 million Carver-Hawkeye Sports Arena Wednesday night. Hailed by the school as as 'one of the finest basketball facilities in the world,' the arena played to a sellout crowd of 15,283 on opening night against Michigan State.
Only one problem: Iowa lost 61-59.
Lute Olson, coach of the No. 8 Hawkeyes, said the move from 55-year-old Iowa Field House to the luxuriant surroundings had no bearing on the outcome.
'The difference in the game was our ability -- or lack of ability - to connect on easy baskets from the lane,' he said. 'We had 19 misses inside the lane.'
But there was more to it than just 40 percent shooting by Iowa. There was also 7-foot Kevin Willis and guard Sam Vincent for Michigan State, who finished with 18 points each in the Big Ten opener.
'I felt Willis was the best big man out there tonight,' said Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote. 'And that Sam Vincent was the best backcourt man.'
Down 58-56, the Hawkeyes had a chance to tie with 30 seconds remaining. But center Michael Payne and Greg Stokes each missed short shots. Ben Tower hit two foul shots to put Michigan State up by 4 but Bob Hansen's desperation 3-pointer with seven seconds to go pulled Iowa within a point.
Defensive pressure by Iowa forced a turnover and the Hawkeyes regained possession. The housewarming then appeared to be a spectcular success as Hansen (17 points) took a pass from Steve Carfino and sank an apparent 3-pointer to win it as the clock wound down. However, with two seconds left the referee ruled Carfino was out of bounds when passing to Hansen and Michigan State escaped.
'In all honesty, we caught Iowa on a cold night in their shooting,' Heathcote said. 'We were very fortunate to win.'
Elsewhere, it was: No. 3 Kentucky 52, Louisiana State 50; Auburn 91, No. 5 Alabama 80; No. 9 Syracuse 83, Providence 58; No. 10 Louisville 79, Kentucky Wesleyan 58; No. 12 Arkansas 83, Mercer 62; No. 16 North Carolina 86, Rutgers 69; and No. 17 Georgetown 82, Monmouth 59.
At Lexington, Ky., Jim Master scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half and Kentucky ran its record to 10-1 with the SEC victory. LSU shot 29 percent in the opening half and trailed 27-16 before giving the Wildcats a scare.
'For the first time we played 40 minutes of intelligent ball,' said LSU coach Dale Brown. 'I think we have arrived as a team.'
At Auburn, Ala., Charles Barkley fired in 27 points and Odell Mosteller had 23 to power Auburn in its upset. Alabama, 8-2, lost to Florida Monday night in its SEC opener. Ennis Whatley had 31 points for the Tide.
At Providence, R.I., Erich Santifer struck for 16 of his 18 points in the second half and Andre Hawkins finished with 15 as unbeaten Syracuse rolled up its 11th victory. Otis Thorpe scored 27 points for Providence in the Big East game.
'Hawkins had his best night for us,' said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. 'In the first half ... Hawkins kept us alive.'
At Louisville, Ky., Jeff Hall, a freshman reserve, scored 13 points and Scooter McCray had 10 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists in Louisville's easy victory. Kentucky Wesleyan of Division II was led by Dwight Higgs with 22 points.
At Pine Bluff, Ark., Alvin Robertson hit for 23 points and Darrell Walker guided the offense as Arkansas hiked its record to 10-0. Mercer took just three foul shots, making two.
At Greensboro, N.C., Jimmy Braddock hit 6-of-7 3-point attempts for 20 points in carrying North Carolina to its sixth straight victory. Roy Hinson had 19 points for Rutgers.
At Landover, Md., Georgetown swept by Monmouth with Patrick Ewing scoring 15 points and pulling down 9 rebounds. The Hoyas, 9-3, led 44-27 at the half. Gary Carter's 20 points paced Monmouth.
In other games, it was: Bucknell 50, Colgate 47; Harvard 67, Army 59; Maine 79, Niagara 73; Maryland 56, William & Mary 51; Mississippi 77, Vanderbilt 62; Old Dominion 61, Western Kentucky 59; Richmond 53, Stetson 52; South Florida 66, Columbia 54; Wagner 84, Duke 77; Bowling Green 71, Ball State 69; Miami (Ohio) 60, Kent State 54; Western Michigan 54, Northern Illinois 53; Wyoming 73, Illinois-Chicago 69; Baylor 75, Rice 54; and Southern Methodist 94, Texas Tech 77.